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Zero Waste Cities Collaborative

In February 2017, CAG joined a collaborative of ten cities in India, Indonesia and the Phillipines that will work to reduce plastic pollution on land and in our oceans through (1) ward-level waste audits, (2) data collection on problematic plastic waste in oceans and rivers. Using data from multiple sites and some product research, our project will publicly identify these products/materials in order to catalyse much-needed innovation in product/packaging design.

Plastic waste constitutes between 60% and 80% of marine debris and is “one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems impacting our oceans and waterways,” according to the U.N. Much of this waste enters from countries in the Asia Pacific region, where rapid urbanization, growth of megacities, increased consumption, extensive coastlines and waterways, and minimal waste infrastructure cause high levels of plastic leakage into oceans. Up to 90% of seabirds today have plastic in their stomachs, and this will reach 99% by 2050 under current projections of plastic production and disposal. Unless we take action to slow and ultimately stop plastic pollution at its source, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050. The vast majority of plastic waste originates on land, and reaches the oceans because of unsustainable product design and inadequate waste management systems. It is clear that a dramatic intervention is needed, one which demonstrates transformative zero waste systems at the local level and uses data to drive sustainable redesign of production and consumption. 

We will conduct thorough waste audits at chosen impact sites to identify specific problem materials. To complement ward-level audits, we will identify what materials are most commonly littered or escape the waste stream and enter our oceans. A thorough waste audit will identify specific problem materials (for example sachets, coffee capsules, juice boxes, Styrofoam for take-out food, etc.). We will also undertake an analysis of brand data in waste audits in order to advocate for producer responsibility of waste. Currently, there is no good method or policy for handling post-consumer waste like styrofoam, tetrapaks, and non woven polypropylene. These materials break down into tiny pieces and find their way to water bodies and the ocean.  However, there is insufficient data on the quantity of products being consumed and discarded, alternative policies to reduce leakage into oceans, availability of alternative products or services, and information on consumer behavior in the market. Using this data, we will produce a report on producer responsibility options.

“Zeroing in on Waste” will reduce marine plastic pollution through high-impact zero waste projects and data analysis that analyses a mix of urban waste streams, beaches and waterways. This work is also important because of the co-benefits that zero waste systems include for public health and economic growth. It includes increased recognition for and formal integration of the informal waste workers whose critical environmental efforts have previously gone under the radar. This will include issuance of official identity cards, which allows them access to critical services and fewer legal obstacles.

Multi-Layered Plastics: Why should it be banned?

If we are asked to list down single-use plastic items in our day to day life, we would possibly identify plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and water bottles. This list generated by the common man is also reflected in policies laid by countries across the world. A common and costly oversight is the single-use plastic waste generated by the plastic industry. In fact, this commodity is the...know more

Where are the Bulk Waste Generators?

For the past year, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group has been working with Greater Chennai Corporation to establish a decentralised waste management system in the city. First, we had to prepare ward-level maps of all types and numbers of different waste generators. In order to ascertain the types and quantum of each type of waste, we set out to identify if the entity was a bulk waste...know more

An analysis of Unilever’s plastic reduction commitments - game changer or myth?

Businesses are increasingly coming under fire for their contribution towards the plastic pollution crisis. The recent brand audit conducted in 51 countries by members of Break Free From Plastic reveals the top five plastic polluters, namely Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsico, Mondelez International and Unilever. These companies are facing flak for their inefficient product design, excessive reliance on...know more

Who is the real polluter?

China had been the dump yard for most of the developed countries, with the US, Japan, Germany, UK on the top list of waste exporters to developing nations. When China announced its National Sword policy, the exporter nations began looking for alternatives to do their dirty job, resulting in waste entering other Asian countries. However, in 2019, several other Asian nations, including Malaysia,...know more

Need for a global treaty on plastics

Today plastic has become an ubiquitous part of our everyday life, it is found in a wide range of goods from personal care, household essentials, electronics, clothes, food packaging, etc. The mass production of plastics began in the 1950s and since then the plastic industry has been growing exponentially. The major demand for plastics comes from the food packaging sector, the building and...know more

Zero Waste City Manual - A Toolkit to Establish City and Community Zero Waste Systems

The vision for the Zero Waste City Initiative is to minimise the movement of solid waste to disposal sites or facilities. This manual presents a practicable plan for municipalities to process waste in-situ and within wards, aggregate recyclables and domestic hazardous waste at the zone level, and leverage the private formal and informal waste networks that already thrive in all Indian cities....know more

Draft Plastic Waste Management By-laws, 2019, Greater Chennai Corporation

Draft Plastic Waste Management By-laws, 2019, Greater Chennai Corporation know more

Benchmarking the in Vitro Toxicity and Chemical Composition of Plastic Consumer Products

It's a well-known fact that consumer plastics and plastic packaging contain compounds that are toxic. In addition to this, there are many chemicals in each plastic product that remain largely unidentified. Till date a comprehensive characterization of the complex chemical mixtures present in plastics is missing and this study aims at creating baseline for the same. Spoiler alert! Compostable...know more

The health impacts of waste incineration: a systematic review

Waste incineration is increasingly promoted as a sustainable solution for waste management through out the world even though it is at the bottom of the waste hierarchy. This study highlights how incinerator technology and infrequent maintenance schedules have been strongly linked with adverse health effects. Waste minimisation is the need of the hour! know more

Evaluation of GCC's SWM tender

This document includes correspondence with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) about the SWM tender and the GCC Solid Waste Management tender evaluation done by CAG.  know more